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Coronavirus: Lyric closes for first time in theatre's 52-year run

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Belfast's Lyric Theatre has closed for the first time in its 52-year history to help slow the spread of Covid-19

Belfast's Lyric Theatre has closed for the first time in its 52-year history to help slow the spread of Covid-19

Belfast's Lyric Theatre has closed for the first time in its 52-year history to help slow the spread of Covid-19

Belfast's Lyric Theatre has closed for the first time in its 52-year history to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

Executive producer Jimmy Fay said: "This is the first time in the Lyric's history that we've been forced to close our doors. Even during the very darkest days of the Troubles the Lyric remained open.

"The closure of theatres and other cultural venues will have a very real and devastating impact on the theatre industry and arts community as a whole.

"Cancelling upcoming performances means that artists will not work and audiences will not get a chance to see shows that we've put our hearts and souls into creating.

"These are strange and uncertain times for us all but if we can help prevent the spread of this virus then this is the most important action we can take for our industry and our society."

Even during the theatre's £18m rebuild a decade ago the show still went on at temporary home the Elmwood Hall.

Mr Fay added: "We send solidarity to all our friends and colleagues across the theatre sector, and to our fantastic audiences.

"We urge you all to take care of yourselves; to self-isolate if required and to stay healthy.

"We look forward to welcoming you back to your Lyric Theatre when we open again."

Playwright Martin Lynch was due to launch his latest production, a one-man show based on the life of the Guildford Four's Gerry Conlon, In The Name Of The Son, at the theatre last night.

"We had over 3,000 tickets sold for the shows but on Sunday we contacted the Lyric to say we should pull out," he said.

"They were supportive of the decision but we felt that we had to take this radical action.

"We performed four nights of the tour last week to packed houses and standing ovations in Armagh, Cookstown and Derry so we were all ready to go for two weeks in Belfast.

"Everybody involved is now unemployed but we're hopeful that a new slot can be found so the show can be rescheduled for later in the year."

Journalist and theatre actor Ivan Little was among those due to attend last night's opening night and says the news is devastating but inevitable.

"The show has always gone on at this exceptional theatre, even at the height of the Troubles," he said.

"I remember watching a production of Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman with a soundtrack of Belfast bomb blasts going off outside in the 1970s when there were only 19 of us in the audience.

"And I think there were even lower attendances than that.

"From memory, the only time the theatre went dark was for a few nights during the Ulster Workers' Council strike in 1974.

"I know everyone across the world is suffering but the theatre is a precarious enough profession without having an enforced interval that could last for months until the curtain goes up again."

The Lyric's Stranmillis site was founded by Mary O'Malley and opened its doors in 1968.

Over the years many recognisable faces have tread the boards including Adrian Dunbar, Dan Gordon, Conleth Hill, Ciaran Hinds, Stella McCusker, Ian McIlhinney, Frances Tomelty and Liam Neeson.

It has also premiered the works of playwrights such as Stewart Parker (Northern Star in 1982), Christina Reid (Tea In A China Cup in 1983) and Marie Jones (Stones In His Pockets in 1997).

Belfast Telegraph